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Am J Primatol. 1999 Dec;49(4):297-314.

Subsistence strategies of two "savanna" chimpanzee populations: the stable isotope evidence.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 53706, USA.


Twenty-two chimpanzee hair samples collected from night nests at two different "savanna" sites were analyzed for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios represented as delta13C and delta15N values. The first at Ugalla, Tanzania is a miombo woodland with grass groundcover and small patches of forest. The second at Ishasha, Democratic Republic of the Congo is a habitat composed of riverine gallery forest, semideciduous thicket forest, wooded grassland, and grassland. Based on comparative data from other primates, Ugalla hair delta13C values suggest that the chimpanzees are feeding primarily in the woodland rather than in forest patches or on grassland foods (grasses or grammivorous fauna). Similar comparisons indicate that the Ishasha chimpanzees are feeding within the forests and not in more open areas. In addition, the Ugalla chimpanzees had delta15N values that indicate extensive ingestion of leguminous flowers, seeds, and/or leaves. The Ishasha samples show a range encompassing three trophic levels. Two samples with the most positive values may indicate a nursing signal or vertebrate-feeding. Three individuals with intermediate values are similar to those in omnivorous nonhuman primate species. The four individuals with the lowest values are very similar to those in herbivorous monkeys. Stable isotope ratios permit time-averaged and habitat-specific dietary comparisons among sites, even without habituation or detailed foraging observations.

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